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Kyrgystan urged to bring synagogue pipe-bombers to justice

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release) — The Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday called on the government of Kyrgyzstan to bring to justice those responsible for attacking a synagogue in the capital city of Bishkek with a nail-filled pipe bomb on the eve of the Jewish New Year.

In a letter to Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva, Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director termed Kyrgyzstan’s response to the attack a test of her “promise to ensure the rule of law and effective government response in the face of ethnic violence.”

“A condemnation by you of this anti-Semitic attack and your public assurance that all efforts will be made to bring the perpetrators to justice will send the necessary message of zero tolerance for violent hate crimes and reassure the Jewish community,” wrote Mr. Foxman.

In her July 3 inaugural speech, President Otunbayeva addressed the issue of ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan, noting that, “dark forces have spilled blood of many innocent people.” At the time she pledged to “spare no effort to create a new political culture for the country based on a strict adherence to the rule of law,” and would be “principled and consistently make demands on all branches of government to ensure it.”

The same synagogue in Bishkek was firebombed in April 2010, at which time the Jewish community appealed to the Kyrgyz government to take appropriate measures to guarantee its safety.

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Preceding provided by Anti-Defamation League

Interfaith ‘Stop the Hate Rally’ planned Sept. 27 in Edison, N.J.

September 12, 2010 Leave a comment

EDISON, N.J. (Press Release)–Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg, pulpit rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Edison, got tired of counting swastikas and hearing antisemitic cat calls when he headed home from synagogue. 

And it didn’t help when hate crimes were dismissed as youthful pranks. Nor does it matter which ethnic or religious group is targeted. “The hate,” says the rabbi, “has got to stop.”

Working with local clergy, the rabbi, who teaches at Rutgers and Yeshiva University, called the Metuchen Edison Clergy Association, who came together and called for a “Stop the Hate Rally” for Monday night, September 27 at Congregation Beth El, 91 Jefferson Boulevard in Edison. The mayor and the chief of police will attend, as will other politicians.“The kids think what they are doing is cool. Unfortunately, they are getting lots of reinforcement from the Internet and current events. Since the community can’t be protected from these obnoxious hate crimes, we, as citizens of Edison, must see how we can change these teen behaviors from the pulpit and in our classrooms. Danger lies ahead if we do nothing.”Pointing to the media, the rabbi notes that baiting Muslims and Latinos, going from verbal violence to physical violence is escalating as elections heat up.  “The behavior of those who feel free to express their xenophobia is an indicator of a failure in our educational system. We are Americans who believe in the Bill of Rights and that all people should be treated with respect and dignity. Our children need to know that and live by that–no matter what race or religion they are.”The rally is expected to raise these issues for discussion, and will be followed up a week later with a talk at Beth El by Dr.Clemens Heni, a political scientist from Innsbruck, Austria, who has written extensively about the Holocaust, antisemitism, the far right and anti-Americanism in Germany. He is currently working on a project about Middle Eastern Islamism after 9/11, financed by the Middle East Forum Educational Fund (MEFEF), Philadelphia.*
Preceding provided by Congregation Beth El in Edison, N.J.

ADL calls on EU to condemn its trade minister’s comments

September 3, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)–The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Friday called on the President of the European Commission to condemn anti-Semitic statements made in a radio interview by the European Union’s trade minister.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following letter to Jose Manuel Barroso, who currently holds the presidency of the European Commission:
 
“Dear Mr. President:
 
“We urge you to issue a clear and public condemnation of Karel de Gucht’s anti-Semitic remarks yesterday to VRT radio. 
 
“Mr. de Gucht said, ‘There exists among a majority of the Jews a belief – it’s hard to describe it otherwise – that they’re right. And a belief is something that is difficult to combat with rational arguments.  It has nothing to do with whether they are religious or not. Even the secular Jews share the same belief of, in fact, being right.’
 
“To assert that ‘a majority of the Jews’ are stubborn and irrational is a clear and negative characterization of the Jewish people. More succinctly, it is anti-Semitism.
 
“We are deeply concerned that EU Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly would not condemn a clear case of anti-Semitism, asserting instead that de Gucht’s remarks were ‘personal comments’ and reiterating the Commission’s position on the Middle East Peace Process.
 
“Today Mr. de Gucht correctly said that ‘anti-Semitism has no place in today’s world and is fundamentally against our European values,’ but he obviously does not recognize that his comments were anti-Semitic. He merely expressed regret that his comments ‘have been interpreted in a sense that I did not intend’ and that he ‘did not mean in any possible way to cause offense or stigmatize the Jewish Community.’
 
“Mr. President, if you believe as we do, that the leaders of Europe have a positive obligation to denounce anti-Semitism whenever it arises, and especially when it occurs at such a high level, we urge you to promptly and clearly condemn Mr. de Gucht’s remarks.”
 
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Preceding provided by the Anti-Defamation League

5770 was a year of alarming–and hopeful–developments for Jews

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment

 By Robert G. Sugarman and Abraham H. Foxman

NEW YORK — The start of the New Year offers a chance to reflect on the events of the past year and contemplate what lies ahead for the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the world.
 
Anti-Semitism knows no borders and persistently rears its head in countries around the globe, particularly in Latin America and Europe.
 
In Chile, Jewish community leaders and institutions were targeted with death threats, anti-Jewish vandalism and other anti-Semitic incidents. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez continues to foster an atmosphere of intimidation and fear for the Venezuelan Jewish community.
 
Across the European continent, practitioners of anti-Semitism engaged in varied tactics. In Greece, arsonists attacked a synagogue on Crete; in Poland, spectators of a professional soccer match unfurled a large banner depicting a caricatured hook-nosed Jew; in Romania, the central bank chose to honor a notorious anti-Semite with a commemorative coin; and in Hungary, an openly anti-Semitic political party enjoyed a strong electoral showing.
 
In Scandinavia, vicious anti-Semitism has led to the exodus of many Jewish families from Malmo, Sweden, and anti-Jewish sentiment persists throughout Norway.
 
At the United Nations, the situation was not much better. The international body voted to endorse the biased and flawed Goldstone Commission report on the 2009 conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. And in a shocking speech, a Syrian diplomat referenced the ancient blood libel against Jews – a remark the president of the U.N. Human Rights Council failed to denounce.
 
At home, a number of well-known figures – from Helen Thomas to Oliver Stone to Louis Farrakhan – engaged in blatant anti-Semitism, employing age-old stereotypes and Jewish conspiracy theories. Anti-government hostility and an uncertain economic situation have contributed to an atmosphere of rage, anger and incivility. This not only impacts on Jews and Jewish safety, it is an ill omen for all minorities. In particular, we have seen an unfortunate spike in anti-Muslim activity and rhetoric which we have denounced. 
 
There is reason for cautious optimism in the Middle East, as the resumption of Israel-Palestinian direct talks brings renewed hope for peace.  Though there are many who are preemptively setting up Israel as the party responsible should peace talks collapse, the renewed dialogue is a welcome development and a reason to be hopeful.
 
The Israeli government continues to follow through on its willingness to make significant concessions in the name of peace. But direct talks are nothing without mutual reciprocity, and the Palestinian Authority must also take concrete steps if there is to be a chance for negotiations to succeed.
 
This hopefulness seems a far cry from a few months ago when the international community engaged in a biased rush to judgment against Israel in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla affair. With lightning speed, many countries reflexively condemned Israel for the incident, barely giving consideration to the underlying circumstances.
 
Once again, those unilaterally opposed to Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself against an enemy which seeks its destruction cynically used the innocent people of Gaza to further their goals.
 
Hamas, meanwhile, has tightened its grip on the people and land of Gaza, smuggling in weapons and other contraband to be used against Israel. The recent killing of four Israelis, including a pregnant woman, by Hamas gunmen in the West Bank demonstrates anew the group’s dedication to terrorism and violence, and they continue to hold captive Israeli soldier Cpt. Gilad Shalit.
 
The shadow of Iran looms large as the regime steadfastly marches toward achieving nuclear capability. A nuclear Iran not only presents an existential threat to Israel, it also poses a serious risk to the security of the United States and the entire world. Iran cannot be allowed to go nuclear, and the United States deserves praise for its efforts to impose sanctions and increase pressure on Iran at the United Nations.
 
Yet there are bright spots to note.
 
Elena Kagan became the eighth Jewish justice and fourth female justice to sit on the United States Supreme Court and the fact that she is Jewish was virtually a non-issue – a demonstration that one’s religion no longer has the significance it once had.
 
European leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel and Lithuania’s Andrius Kubilius have spoken out forcefully against racism and anti-Semitism.
 
The ongoing battle against hate crime gained new momentum with the passage of comprehensive federal hate crimes legislation. It ensures that all bias crime victims are covered under federal law, and that authorities have the necessary tools to prosecute such crimes.
 
In a historic visit to Rome’s main synagogue, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged the validity of Judaism and reaffirmed the Catholic Jewish relationship.
 
Anti-Semitic attitudes in the United States remain at historic lows, with 12 percent of Americans holding anti-Jewish views, matching the lowest figure ever recorded.
 
In January 2010, Israel gained entry into an important political coalition of liberal democracies at the United Nations.
           
Despite being situated in a dangerous neighborhood, the State of Israel remains a light unto the nations, a place where democracy and freedom flourish and a land where economic innovation and entrepreneurship are outdone only by the incredible diversity and spirit of its people.
 
We pray for 5771 to be a year in which the Jewish people continue to thrive and the State of Israel finds lasting peace and security. We hope that the diversity of American society continues to flourish and the forces of anti-Semitism, religious intolerance and extremism are defeated.
 
L’Shana Tovah!
 
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Robert G. Sugarman is National Chair of the Anti-Defamation League.  Abraham H. Foxman is the League’s National Director and author of “The Deadliest Lies: The Jewish Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control” and of the forthcoming “Jews and Money: The Story of a Stereotype” (November 2010).

Should Pope Pius XII Become a Saint?

August 29, 2010 2 comments

By Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

Fred Reiss

WINCHESTER, California — The Catholic Church has over 10,000 saints and “beati,” or blessed on the roster. Does it really make a difference if there is one more?

The answer is probably not for most rank-and-file Catholics. They already have three  saints per day from among whom they can choose for feasting.

It matters to Jews who remember the actions and lack of actions by Eugenio Pacelli, Vatican Secretary of State until 1939, at which time he became Pope Pius XII. Prior to 1963, the world generally viewed Pius XII as a faithful shepherd to his people during a dark period in the world’s history. The liberal-Catholic writer Graham Green characterized Pius XII as, “a pope who many of us believe will rank among the greatest.”

In 1963, Rolf Hochhuth published his play, The Deputy, which condemned Pius XII and the entire Vatican hierarchy for failing to act to save European Jewry from death camps and the atrocities of the Nazis. John Cornwell’s 1999 book, Hitler’s Pope, continued the condemnation of Pius XII for supporting National Socialism and for failing to act on behalf of Jews. Gabriel Wilensky, author of Six Million Crucifixions, argues that Pope Pius XII actions during World War II can be attributed to the belief that he had more to fear from the survival of godless Communism then from the Nazi regime.

Many Jews and non-Jews believe that making Pius XII a saint is a disgrace. In Israeli’s Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, there is a plaque that delineates the perceived anti-Jewish actions of the Pope during the war. The plaque lists such things as the 1933 Concordat with Hitler to preserve the Church’s rights in Germany in exchange for recognizing the Nazi government, pigeon-holing a 1939 letter against anti-Semitism that his predecessor prepared, abstaining from joining the allies’ denunciation of the extermination of Jews, and failing to intervene in the deportation of Jews living in Rome to Auschwitz.

The sainthood of Pius XII certainly matters to the Vatican. Most Catholic scholars have cautioned the Vatican to move slowly with regard to his sainthood. Yet, for the papacy and the church hierarchy there seems to be a need for urgency. According to Celestine Bohlen, Pope Benedict’s December, 2009 decree moving both John Paul II and Pius XII closer to sainthood is filled with Vatican politics. She wrote that, “Benedict had hoped to satisfy both the conservative and the liberal wings of the Catholic Church”. Pope Benedict’s outward position is simple: Pius XII worked quietly and behind the scenes to rescue Jews from the hands of the Nazi war machine. Benedict is also quick to point out that many Catholics risked their own lives to save Jews.

It also matters to the Pave the Way Foundation, whose website declares, “We are a non-sectarian public foundation, which identifies and eliminates non-theological obstacles between the faiths”. From September 15 through 17, 2008 the foundation held a symposium in Rome to examine the papacy of Pius XII. At the conference, lawyers, linguists, researchers and foreign correspondents, priests and nuns, and even a Rabbi met to report on deeds and acts of Pius XII during World War II. In the proceedings, published under the title, Examining the Papacy of Pope Pius XII, the conference examined twelve commonly-held beliefs about the Pope. These beliefs included such things as the Pope was: anti-Semitic, obsessed with atheistic Communism, did not believe that the Church has an obligation to either protect or care for non-Catholics, and should be condemned for signing an agreement with Hitler in 1933. They also responded to the annotations on plaque at Yad Vashem.

The proceedings concluded that “the controversy about Pius has to a large degree been generated by those who ignore his endless efforts over many years to help victims of Hitler.” For example, the proceedings argue that Pius’ Concordant with Hitler occurred before he became Pope and was actually at the direction of his predecessor, Pius XI. There never was a letter opposing anti-Semitism, only drafts.  The Pope did protest the deportation of the Jews from Rome to Auschwitz. Cardinal Maglione, his Secretary of State, delivered the first protest and the second was delivered through an assistant to German General Stahel.

Since John Paul II abolished the “devil’s advocate” portion of the canonization process, the question of whether or not Pope Pius XII becomes a saint may be more a result of politics than theology. If it is true that Pius’ strategy to save European Jews was to work behind the scenes, then that strategy failed. That alone should disqualify him.

Thousands of Catholics fall into the category called righteous gentiles, Christians who personally risked their lives and the lives of their families to save Jews. Perhaps they are more qualified for sainthood.

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Dr. Fred Reiss is a retired public and Hebrew school teacher and administrator. He is the author of The Standard Guide to the Jewish and Civil CalendarsAncient Secrets of Creation: Sepher Yetzira, the Book that Started Kabbalah, Revealed; and Reclaiming the Messiah. The author can be reached through his website, www.fredreissbooks.com.

Canadian Jewish Congress says Ottawa should decline to honor anti-Semitic former mayor

August 24, 2010 Leave a comment

OTTAWA (WJC)–The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) has criticized posthumous honors for the first female mayor of Ottawa because of her opposition to taking in Jewish refugees during World War II.

CJC officials, writing in the ‘Ottawa Citizen’, charged that Charlotte Whitton, who served as mayor of Canada’s capital city from 1951 to 1956 and from 1960 to 1964, “never publicly recanted her anti-Semitism and sought no atonement for the dire consequences of her actions. Her poisoning of the well helped close Canada’s door to Jewish refugee orphans, dooming them to their fate in the Holocaust.”

Last year, the Ottawa Committee of the Famous Five Foundation had asked the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to recognize Whitton for her pioneering work as a politician, feminist and social worker. Whitton’s role in blocking non-British refugee children – 80 percent of whom were Jewish – is cited in the 1982 book None is Too Many authored by the historians Irving Abella and Harold Troper.

According to the book, which takes its title from a phrase uttered by a Canadian bureaucrat in response to a query on how many Jews Canada would accept after the war, Whitton was an “influential voice” in the early 1940s, when she served on the Canadian Welfare Council and the Canadian National Committee on Refugees. She “nearly broke up” the inaugural meeting of the committee on refugees “by her insistent opposition and very apparent anti-Semitism,” the book says. The Canadian Jewish Congress, it adds, considered Whitton – who died in 1975 – “an enemy of Jewish immigration.”

Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber told the ‘Jewish Telegraphic Agency’ he was confident that “given [Whitton] acting on her anti-Semitism, it is highly unlikely she will receive honors from any level of government.”

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Pig’s head at Lithuanian synagogue door enrages community

August 24, 2010 Leave a comment

KAUNUS, Lithuania (WJC)–Jewish organizations in Lithuania have strongly condemned an apparent neo-Nazi attack in which a pig’s head was left Saturday at the entrance of a synagogue in the city of Kaunas.

“The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Religious Community of Lithuanian Jews judge this as Nazi provocation aimed at insulting the ethnic and religious feelings of Lithuanian Jews,” the heads of the two organizations, Simonas Alperavicius and Chief Rabbi Chaim Burstein, said in a joint statement.

Simonas Gurevicius, executive director of the Lithuanian Jewish community, told the news agency AFP that the incident should be treated as an attack on all believers, not only Jews. “We hope that Lithuanian society will not be impassive, as this act of a few anti-Semitic vandals does not reflect the attitude of Lithuanian society.”

Kaunas police have launched a formal investigation but there are no suspects so far, according to the ‘Baltic News Service’. 

Lithuania was once home to a 220,000-strong Jewish community, and Vilnius was a cultural hub and world center for the study of the Torah, also known as the ‘Jerusalem of the North’. At the end of the 19th century, there were over 100 synagogues in Vilnius. During the Holocaust, 95 percent of Lithuania’s Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators.  

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress